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Vietnam to install first resident nuncio this week

Archbishop Maek Zalewski will work from a hotel in the capital Hanoi until his official residence is finalized
The old building of apostolic delegates next to the Hanoi Archbishop's House is now used as a public library.

The old building of apostolic delegates next to the Hanoi Archbishop's House is now used as a public library. (Photo UCA News)

Published: January 29, 2024 12:25 PM GMT
Updated: January 30, 2024 06:58 AM GMT

The Vatican's first resident representative to Vietnam, named nearly 50 years after mutual ties were severed, will work from a hotel room in the capital while his official residence is finalized.

Archbishop Maek Zalewski is to arrive in Hanoi as the first resident papal nuncio to Vietnam on Jan. 31, announced Archbishop Joseph Nguyen Nang, head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Vietnam. 

Nang said Zalewski will temporarily stay at the Pan Pacific Hotel in Ba Dinh district, two kilometers away from Hanoi Archbishop’s House.

A senior priest from the Hanoi Archdiocese said government and Vatican officials are to finalize a place for the nunciature, where papal diplomatic mission functions led by a nuncio.

“The government is likely to grant a plot of land in Tay Ho district for the Holy See to build the office,” the priest said on condition of anonymity.

Redemptorist Father James Dinh Xuan Toan based in Hue said that many people appealed via social media to the communist government to return an old church building that was used by apostolic delegates from 1951 to 1959.

The gesture could be a way to show its willingness to have a good relationship with the Catholic church, they said.

The building next to the Hanoi Archbishop’s House was confiscated by the government and has been used as a public library since 2008.

For some time the building was also used as a restaurant, discotheque, and bar by local authorities.

Toan said that “the government will be in hot water if it returns the building” as it could increase the demand to return several such properties. 

The communist government “borrowed” countless facilities run by religious groups in the north after 1954 and in the south after 1975.

Many of those properties are still used for public purposes while the rest were sold to private organizations and individuals.

“At the moment the government may save face by giving a proper plot of land to the Holy See to build a new building for the resident papal envoy,” Toan said.

In 1925, Bishop Constantino Ayuti was assigned as the first apostolic delegate in Indochina and was based in Hue.

Apostolic delegate Irish Bishop John Dooley moved to Hanoi in 1950 and stayed there until he was expelled from Vietnam in 1959. 

Another building of the apostolic delegates was based in Saigon, the present Ho Chi Minh City, from 1959 until 1975, when the country was reunified under communist rule.

The Vatican nominated nine apostolic delegates to Vietnam during the 50 years between 1925 and 1975.

Archbishop Henri Lemaitre was the last Apostolic delegate, who was expelled from South Vietnam in 1975. 

The Holy See and the Southeast Asian country have not had diplomatic relations since then.

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